Attendees of the UK-Russia Joint Committee Science & Technology Cooperation Ministerial Meeting 2013. Photo credit Big T Images

Last week the Royal Society hosted the 11th session of the Ministerial UK Russia Joint Committee on Scientific and Technical Co-operation, co-chaired by Minister Vince Cable, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Livanov. A number of new co-operative ventures were announced, strengthening links in Satellite launches and Space cooperation and expanding the range of joint collaborations between the two nations into areas of education, innovation and scientific research.

The meeting, which was jointly organised by the UK Science and Innovation Network (SIN) – Russia, the Royal Society and government departments from the UK and Russia, builds on the mutual interest of two of the countries governments’ to promote innovation and improve provisions in education that will enhance international collaborative research for the next scientific century.

In his opening remarks Minister Cable emphasised the importance of educational infrastructure and the current efforts between the UK and Russia to establish in the future mutual recognition of qualifications, noting that overseas collaboration was a key aspect of the UK’s drive to bridge science and commerce and promote higher education as “an export industry”.

UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Minister Vince Cable and Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Minister Dmitry Livanov. Photo credit Big T Images

As testament to this goal, the ministers signed an agreement between the British Council, Royal Society and Russian Federation of Basic Research to establish bilateral ‘Researcher Links Projects’ in Russia. This agreement will provide funding for research proposals under the joint leadership of UK and Russian scientists, enabling greater student mobility and opening avenues for longer term collaborations.

International research collaborations between leading UK and Russian institutions are already on the horizon in photonics and accelerator science. The Royal Society also announced follow-up funding for young researchers who took part in the UK-Russia Frontiers of Science meeting, held in March this year.

The meeting also highlighted a number of upcoming events, which have been scheduled to coincide with the UK/Russia Year of Culture in 2014 including, ‘Chemistry Week UK’ in Russia, a joint conference on ‘Universities as Engines for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’ at the Royal Society of Engineering in London partnered with Russia’s Skolkovo Tech university join with MIT, and the Cosmonauts Exhibition at the Science Museum in London, which will chart Russia’s remarkable and historic space endeavour.

As noted by Professor Martyn Poliakoff FRS, Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, such co-operative agreements and projects between UK and Russia underpin science diplomacy and global scientific collaboration, which the Royal Society has long championed. Indeed, to use Professor Poliakoff’s aptly scientific metaphor, the Society has been “a catalyst for scientific collaboration between these two nations”, dating back some 300 years, when Fellows initiated  their scientific dialogue with Russia, in a letter to share knowledge of advances in research, asking “What Learned Men, Skillfull in naturall Philosophy, Mathematics Mechanics Anatomy or the like, are there’…” and “how the said Persons may be corresponded with”– Enquirys for Russia, Fellows of the Royal Society, 1713.

At the Royal Society we look forward to 2014 and stronger collaborations between the UK and Russia.

Extract from Enquirys for Russia, 1713, courtesy of the Royal Society Archives